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James Cook had learnt maritime navigation as a teenage apprentice in the merchant navy, sailing on coal ships along the English coast between Tyne and London.
Cook was taught how to use the plane table by military engineer Samuel Holland in Canada in 1758. Britain was at war with France for control of North America, and Cook was serving there as a recent recruit to the Royal Navy. During the siege of Quebec, Cook and Holland created a map of the entrance to the St Lawrence River that helped General James Wolfe succeed in taking the city by stealth in 1759.
Left: Portrait of a Midshipman, by Mason Chamberlain, painted about 1760, shows a young officer learning navigation with a compass and rule. Courtesy: Trustees of Leeds Castle Foundation, Maidstone, Kent, UK/The Bridgeman Art Library.
This is the map of Newfoundland surveyed by Cook. Courtesy: The Trustees of the British Museum.